Sunday, June 29, 2008

Do you regret Johan?

When the Yankees famously refused to give up Phil Hughes and Ian Kennedy for then-Twins ace Johan Santana last winter, the sentiment among Yankees fans was split nearly down the middle.

One camp said you couldn't pass up on the chance to acquire a left-handed ace in his prime, even if you were going to overpay in the longterm. The prospects, however highly-touted they were, were still just prospects. This made sense.

The second camp felt that the contract extension was too rich for a pitcher nearing 30. More importantly, the prospects represented a more organic and smarter route in taking the franchise to the next decade. This also made sense.

The plot foreseen in Spring Training rarely plays out to plan, and the 2008 Yankees are a prime example of that. Hughes and Kennedy are winless and injured. Meanwhile, Chien-Ming Wang went down with a serious foot injury, and suddenly the Yankees were supposedly in the market for an ace pitcher. It would seem New York had made a mistake in not acquiring Santana.

Or so you would think. Watching Santana pitch in yesterday's 3-2 Yankees win, it got me thinking how the risk of signing a pitcher to a big-money deal may not be worth it. The Mets owe their ace $137 million and in his first year with the team -- a time where they should be getting the best pitching of his career -- they are just 9-8 in his starts. He has pitched very well at times, but the Mets have now lost his last five outings. He has a strong 3.01 ERA for the season, but he has allowed 17 homers and has yet to pitch into the eighth inning. Great pitcher still? Sure. But slam dunk difference-maker? Apparently not.

It's too soon to write Santana off as a cautionary tale the way Barry Zito has shipwrecked the Giants, but it is safe to say that one pitcher doesn't cure an entire team. The Mets were a broken team before Santana arrived, and they are still very much a broken team now. Whether or not Hughes and Kennedy become contributors remains to be seen. But the Mets are proof that when it comes to pitching, there is no sure thing.

1 comment:

SA Yankee fan said...

I must say, I was not in favour of trading Hughes and Kennedy for him, I felt the price was too high.

Especially if you consider there is decent starting pitching available in the free agent market this winter. I don't think you can help overpaying for pitching but at least this way you overpay without giving up you top prospects.

The Yankees have 80million coming off the books this winter, I would look at re-signing Giami, Abreau and Moose but even then they will come cheaper then what you are paying now.

The yankees can go big this winter and re-stock the roster with fresh talent for hte new stadium and still have their prospects. That for me is the way to go.

Look at it this way, they can end up this winter with CC, resign moose and go to spring training with CC, Wang, Moose, Joba and then Hughes and Kennedy plus all the other prospects fighting for the last spot. A good place to be.

You will only really be able to judge the Santana trade in about 2-3 years time but despite what happens now, I am actually still fine with the decision.